New Study of Tech Policy Landscape Shows Privacy, Security Most Likely to Drive Consumer Action

Edelman Berland survey explores issues, actions, attitudes of major technology policy issues being debated inside the Beltway

June 18, 2014

6 Min Read


Published June 17, 2014

According to a new study commissioned by Edelman, among major technology policy issues, security and privacy of personal data was overwhelmingly the largest concern for consumers, ranking ahead of the cost/quality of home internet service and technology innovations that improve everyday life. The Exploring Consumer Attitudes & Actions on Key Tech Policy Issues 2014 study reveals a majority of respondents (59 percent) said either privacy or security had the biggest potential impact on their personal lives. This concern has led as many respondents (59 percent) to say they would take action related to security and privacy issues.

Conducted by Edelman Berland, the survey polled more than 1,000 U.S. consumers over the age of 18 to better understand their attitudes about major technology policy issues and their willingness to take action and engage in the political process on these issues.

“We wanted to get a sense of what issues are on people’s radars – and most importantly, which issues might cause people to take action. This snapshot of attitudes will help the tech companies we work with design more tailored approaches to communicating their principles and philosophies on these policy issues to their customers, employees and stakeholders,” said Athena Johnson, senior vice president and head of Edelman’s DC Technology + Policy Group. “While the issues that consumers care about will inevitably change over time, the willingness for people to act based on these issues should get technology companies to take notice.”

Privacy and security top of mind

Having just passed the one year anniversary of the of the Snowden revelations, and with major corporations recently having endured large-scale cyber-attacks, it was of little surprise that the privacy and security of their personal data have become higher-priority policy issues for many citizens.

“We’ve seen several companies suffer significant reputation loss and significantly increased scrutiny from policymakers, regulators and the plaintiff’s bar around the world when failing to communicate about and handle these issues effectively,” said David Chamberlin, executive vice president and data security group lead at Edelman.

Tech policy trends based on gender, age and income

The survey asked respondents to choose which one of several key tech policy issues had the most impact on them personally. The full list of issues and their response rates were as follows:

·         The security of personal data used online, on any connected devices: 30 percent

·         The privacy of personal data and how it is used by business and government: 29 percent

·         The cost, choice and quality of broadband Internet service received at home: 16 percent

·         Tech innovations that improve everyday life and work (using apps to book taxis, room reservations, “the sharing economy”): 9 percent

·         The future of America’s high tech workforce (immigration of skilled workers, STEM education): 8 percent

·         The commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones): 3 percent

·         The use of tech tools and computer algorithms to gain an advantage in the stock market: 3 percent

·         Intellectual property protections for people’s ideas and innovations: 2 percent

Several trends were identified within the findings, based on the gender, age and income levels of the respondents. Women – who are quite often the family purchase drivers – were most likely to sign an online petition and stop or reduce the use of technologies that were found to be in conflict with their personal beliefs. Conversely, men were most likely to voice their opinions on these issues through meetings with local or national representatives, writing op-eds or letters to the editor, or posting content on their personal or business social media pages.

Additional key findings identified included:

·         Behind privacy and security, the issue people felt most impacted by – and were most willing to take action on – was the cost, choice and quality of internet service. This may have been fueled by the FCC considering amending its net neutrality position.

·         In looking at the different actions people were willing to take on issues that impacted them:

·         Somewhat surprisingly, 40% said they would stop or reduce the use of technologies in conflict with their beliefs.

·         56 percent said they would take political action (sign an online petition, contact a politician or meet with a local or national representative).

·         29 percent said they would share their opinions about these issues through word of mouth (by writing an op-ed/letter to the editor of a publication, posting content to personal social media or posting, content to business social media channels).

·         There was a generational divide in the actions people were willing to take:

·         Those under 40 were the demographic most willing to meet with local/national representatives to discuss their concerns or to voice their opinions through op-eds and letters to the editor.

·         Those 40 and older were most likely to sign petitions and contact politicians when voicing their opinion on an issue.

·         High income respondents and those over 55 were most likely to contact a politician.

Edelman unveiled these findings at a morning panel entitled, “Navigating the Cybersecurity and Privacy Regulation and Liability Landscape.” For more detailed findings about this study, please visit

About Edelman

Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm, with 67 offices and more than 4,800 employees worldwide, as well as affiliates in more than 30 cities. Edelman was named Advertising Age’s top-ranked PR firm of the decade in 2009 and one of its “A-List Agencies” in both 2010 and 2011; Adweek’s “2011 PR Agency of the Year;” PRWeek’s “2011 Large PR Agency of the Year;” and The Holmes Report’s “2013 Global Agency of the Year” and its 2012 “Digital Agency of the Year.” Edelman was named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Advertising Age in 2010 and 2012 and among Glassdoor’s top ten “Best Places to Work” in 2011 and 2012. Edelman owns specialty firms Edelman Berland (research), Blue (advertising), BioScience Communications (medical communications), and agencies Edelman Significa (Brazil), and Pegasus (China). Visit for more information.

About Edelman Berland

Edelman Berland is a global, full-service market insights and analytics firm that provides corporate, non-profit and government clients with strategic intelligence to make their communications and engagements with stakeholders the smartest they can be. The firm specializes in measurement, tracking and analysis in reputation, branding and communications. Edelman Berland is part of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations company. Edelman Berland has more than 100 employees in offices around the world. Edelman Berland: Intelligent Engagement.

About Edelman’s Technology + Policy Group

Based in Washington, DC, Edelman’s Technology + Policy Group understands the issues tech companies are facing inside and outside the Beltway. We work with leading organizations – both small and large – in the public and private sectors to create meaningful and tailored strategies that break through cluttered communications channels and make an impact for the business. Our experts bring diverse experience from the tech corridors of Seattle and Silicon Valley to New York, Boston and Washington. Paired with deep public affairs knowledge, the team is well suited to help organizations turn public affairs and public relations challenges into thought leadership platforms and business opportunities.

About Edelman Data Privacy and Security Group

Edelman’s Data Security & Privacy helps companies navigate the increasingly complex environment surrounding the collection, use and protection of corporate and personal data. The group assists companies by enhancing trust and advancing brand, reputation and competitiveness through communications and stakeholder engagement. We work with companies across a variety of sectors to prepare for data incidents, manage security and privacy issues, influence the policy agenda and define leadership positioning.


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